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Woodlawn wails at MTA Bx34 bus plan

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Scrambling to close a $1.2 billion deficit, the city’s public transportation authority moved December 17 to boost fares and cut service. Among those routes scheduled for 2009 elimination: the Bx34 bus, which runs from Woodlawn to Fordham Road.

Albany may approve a citywide bailout plan. Community Board 7 will ask the MTA to soften the blow. Regardless, the news has Woodlawn residents riled.

“Cutting the Bx34 bus would be disastrous,” said Margaret Fogarty, who belongs to the Woodlawn Taxpayers Association. “It goes down to Norwood, and to Fordham Road. It connects with the cross-town bus and the Bx17 bus to Fordham University.”

The Bx34 bus chugs down Katonah Avenue from E. 241st Street, turns west on E. 233rd Street and south on Bainbridge Avenue. At Fordham Road, it loops back north via Valentine Avenue.

Although the Bx34 bus links Woodlawn to Norwood and Bedford Park, splitting Mosholu Golf Course and Woodlawn Cemetery, it serves fewer riders than many routes. According to an MTA ridership study, the Bx34 bus ranks in the city’s bottom third.

For that reason, and because the Bx16 bus runs parallel to the Bx34 bus on Bainbridge Avenue and E. 233rd Street, the MTA considers Woodlawn’s favorite route dispensable.

“The Bx16 does duplicate, in part, the Bx34 route,” MTA spokesman Aaron Donovan said. “Customers will still be able to get from the D Train into Woodlawn, on the Bx16.”

A number of Woodlawn residents object to Donovan’s logic and the new MTA budget. Yes, they admit, the Bx16 bus does run along Bainbridge Avenue and E. 233rd. But it originates half a borough east, above Pelham Bay Park.

“By the time the Bx16 gets to Woodlawn, it’s already packed,” said Helen Brown.

Catherine Diaw, another Woodlawn resident, agreed.

“The Bx16 bus is not a viable option,” Diaw said. “When I miss the Bx34, I sometimes run to catch the Bx16 – only to watch it fly by, because it’s too crowded.”

Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz slammed the MTA as well.

“The MTA seems to do what makes the least possible sense,” Dinowitz said. “When we cut service, the deficit grows. When we offer comprehensive service, more people take mass transit and the city makes money.”

Dinowitz criticized the transit authority for proposing to increase Access-a-Ride, express bus and subway fares – 100 percent, 50 percent and 25 percent respectively.

The Bx34 bus runs late; the Bx16 bus doesn’t, Brown and Diaw pointed out. They’d rather not tramp past Van Cortlandt Park and Woodlawn Cemetery after midnight. The Bx34 caters to students at P.S. 19 and St. Barnabus High School, said Fogarty.

“We understand ex-Bx34 riders will experience additional waiting and walking in light of this change,” Donovan said. “But reducing service is an unfortunate necessity of our dire financial problems.”

CB 7 has drawn up a compromise plan, district manager Fernando Tirado said. The MTA could eliminate the Bx34 bus and extend the Bx16 bus route south to Fordham Road. CB 7 has requested a public hearing in February.

“We want the MTA to cut with a scalpel, not a chainsaw,” Tirado said.

Meanwhile, MTA members are praying Albany will approve former chairman Richard Ravitch’s bailout plan.

“We’re hopeful the legislature will provide stable financial footing for the MTA,” Donovan said. “So we can avoid cutting the Bx34 and other routes.”

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